Jun 29, 2010

My Thoughts on Plants Vs. Zombies

Zombies have not yet reached their full saturation point for me. My obsession with the undead has been all-consuming since I was a little kid. I watched the movies (Dawn of the Dead, Return of the Dead, Evil Dead), played the video games (Zombies Ate My Neighbors - What Up!), collected comic books, and began, at some point to write short stories about them. I can't to this day describe exactly what it is about the walking dead that intrigues me, but something keeps bringing me back.

Plants vs. Zombies, a tower defense game developed by PopCap, takes my fondness to a whole new level. Who knew rotting corpses could be so adorable?

I resisted PopCap games for the longest time, Bejeweled being the first and most prominent example. Everyone who has ever had a cell phone has had a trial version of the Tetris-like puzzle game (though not really) on it. Bejeweled didn't impress me. I didn't find it addictive. I didn't find it entertaining. I found it tedious and cheap, but I may have wrongfully overlooked it.

Then came Peggle. Though I initially didn't make the connection between Bejeweled and Peggle, I ignored it nonetheless. Both ostensibly possessed the same "casual game" label, and I was much too busy head-shotting aliens and (of course) zombies to be concerened with shooting a ball into a screenful of blue and orange dots.

But I played it, and, like usual, found out how idiotic I had been. Not only is Peggle fun, it's seriously addictive, and not just in a "casual", this-is-easy-to-pick-up-and-play sort of way. The developers at PopCap Games have found a magical formula for both grade of difficulty and transition between levels to keep the player glued to the screen for hours. A whole week went by where I don't think I watched an hour's worth of television due to this beast. It consumed my life, and I almost felt guilty after the obsession had passed. Almost.

Having been baptized into the revealed religion of PopCap, I recently dove headlong into Plants vs. Zombies, even though I had no idea what in the hell a tower defense game is. Ostensibly, what the player does is set up obstacles for an attacking army (zombies, in this case). If the zombies make it all the way across the screen and into your house, you lose. In PVZ, the obstacles take the form of plants. As the zombies track across the screen, the plants attack them. Planting sunflowers, for example, yields bits of sunlight - 25 pts a pop - which can be used to purchase other plants, like Jalapenos, which explode and kill an entire row of zombies, or pea shooters, which fire repeatedly at advancing enemies, until their heads fall off and they fall double-lifeless to the ground.

It sounds strange, and yet it works. The key to PopCap games is that they definitely do not take themselves too seriously. And yet, the developers seem to take them very seriously. The games themselves are very well put-together, and the player gets way more than the purchase price out of them, which many triple-A titles can't even boast. I paid ten bucks for PVZ, and I've put well over thirty hours into it. I'm starting a second go-round, using the different plants I accumulated over the course of the game, and so far I don't see myself slowing down whatsoever.

1 comment:

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